Santa Monica Place (SMP) is being transformed into a 21st century open-air mall and progress towards that goal was quite clear to all those who took the behind-the-scenes tour given by the mall’s owner, Macerich, last week.
It has been almost four months since the April 17 ceremony kicked off the demolition of the old SMP. Since that time the 4th Street entrance has become the priority area where the construction started. From 300 Broadway, it was apparent that the old Robinson’s-May building has been cut back one column, and the food court has been removed so that there will be a seamless transition between the Third Street Promenade and SMP. The mall’s roof has also been removed and there is now a center court with 360-degree views.
Bob Abtaker, who is Macerich’s Vice President of Development, pointed out that the goal is to have the center court “feel like an open area where you can have performances and to be a gathering place for the community.” He also noted the need for such a space by stating, “There aren’t too many community gathering places in Downtown Santa Monica.”
The Vice President of Development also stated that it would have been easier to knock the entire mall down and start from scratch but instead the construction is being phased with more than 50 percent of the original building being reused. This reuse is sounder from both an environmental and community perspective. The remodel is also recycling more than 95 percent of the materials being used during construction.
Abtaker also mentioned that the remodel would use 19,000 tons of new steel and 7,500 hundred yards of concrete including foundations and slabs. Macerich anticipates that there will be 400 workers on site during the peak of construction. The original parts of the mall are being upgraded to meet higher seismic safety standards.
Last month Macerich announced that Nordstrom would open a new store in the former Robinson’s-May building in 2010.
Macerich officials noted during the City’s Planning Commission’s review of the project that the remodel “reflects the values heard from the public.” These values were “build something of reasonable scale, create a better connection with the Third Street Promenade, include open-air views and street retail elements, develop an environmentally sound project, pay attention to traffic and parking and make retail the primary use of SMP.” Other parameters taken into account in designing the remodel were retaining the parking decks and the area housing Macy’s, and that economically, the project “pencils out.”
The remodel also retains the existing height of the current mall but will reduce its square footage by approximately 10,234 square feet. In addition, 63 parking spaces will be lost from the existing parking decks. The remodeled mall will ultimately contain a center court that is twice as large as the existing center court, and the third level food court will contain both indoor and outdoor eating areas as well as sit-down restaurants.
The remodel will also give the City public benefits such as additional tax revenue for City programs, family restrooms, a public art installation and a community gallery and an improved community room.
Construction will last approximately 18 months and the mall will reopen in the Fall of 2009. So far during construction only the parking decks and Macy’s will remain open.